Mike Portnoy

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Mike Portnoy
Mike Portnoy.jpg
Mike Portnoy in 2007
Background information
Birth nameMichael Stephen Portnoy
Born(1967-04-20) April 20, 1967 (age 47)
Long Beach, New York, United States
GenresProgressive metal, heavy metal, progressive rock, hard rock, jazz fusion
InstrumentsDrums, vocals, bass, guitar
Years active1984–present
Associated actsDream Theater, Transatlantic, Liquid Tension Experiment, Neal Morse, OSI, Avenged Sevenfold, Adrenaline Mob, Stone Sour, Flying Colors, Bigelf, The Winery Dogs
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Mike Portnoy
Mike Portnoy.jpg
Mike Portnoy in 2007
Background information
Birth nameMichael Stephen Portnoy
Born(1967-04-20) April 20, 1967 (age 47)
Long Beach, New York, United States
GenresProgressive metal, heavy metal, progressive rock, hard rock, jazz fusion
InstrumentsDrums, vocals, bass, guitar
Years active1984–present
Associated actsDream Theater, Transatlantic, Liquid Tension Experiment, Neal Morse, OSI, Avenged Sevenfold, Adrenaline Mob, Stone Sour, Flying Colors, Bigelf, The Winery Dogs

Michael Stephen "Mike" Portnoy (born April 20, 1967) is an American drummer primarily known as the former drummer, backing vocalist, and a co-founder of the progressive metal/rock band Dream Theater. Known for his technical skill as a drummer, Portnoy has won 29 awards from the Modern Drummer magazine.[1] He co-produced six Dream Theater albums with guitarist John Petrucci, starting from Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory through Black Clouds and Silver Linings. From A Change of Seasons onwards, Portnoy had been writing a significant amount of Dream Theater's lyrics. He is the second youngest person (after Neil Peart) to be inducted into the Modern Drummer's Hall of Fame (at 37 years of age).

Besides his work with Dream Theater, Portnoy is known for his many side projects and tribute bands. He is a founding member of Liquid Tension Experiment, an instrumental progressive rock band featuring fellow Dream Theater members John Petrucci and Jordan Rudess along with bassist Tony Levin. He is also a founding member of Transatlantic, a progressive rock "super-group" featuring former Spock's Beard keyboardist/vocalist Neal Morse, Flower Kings guitarist Roine Stolt and Marillion bassist Pete Trewavas. Portnoy has also recorded and/or toured/performed live with Neal Morse, OSI, Hail!, Stone Sour, Fates Warning, Overkill, G3 and played on Avenged Sevenfold's album Nightmare in place of their late drummer, The Rev. Over the years, Portnoy has also created tribute bands to The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Rush, and The Who, which has allowed him to perform the music of his four favorite drummers.

In September 2010, Portnoy announced that he had left Dream Theater after 25 years. He was replaced by Mike Mangini. Since his departure, Portnoy started several new projects. The first, Adrenaline Mob, a straight rock/metal band with Russell Allen, singer of Symphony X, and guitarist Mike Orlando.[2] On June 4, 2013, however, Portnoy announced his departure from Adrenaline Mob, citing scheduling conflicts. He has also started a progressive pop oriented band with Steve Morse, Neal Morse, Dave LaRue, and Casey McPherson called Flying Colors and a power trio together with Billy Sheehan (Mr. Big) and Richie Kotzen (former Mr. Big, Poison) called The Winery Dogs.

Mike Portnoy's history[edit]

Portnoy was born April 20, 1967 and raised on Long Island in Long Beach, New York.[3] His father worked as a DJ at a local radio station, helping Portnoy gain an appreciation for music at an early age particularly, as Portnoy has pointed out, because he had access to his father's collection of LPs. He developed a preference for bands including Rush, Queen, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Iron Maiden, and The Beatles, among many others. Portnoy claims to be self-taught as a drummer, though he did take music theory classes in high school. During that period he began playing in local bands, two of which (Rising Power and Inner Sanctum) recorded and released independent albums. He left Inner Sanctum (his last high school band) after being awarded a scholarship to attend the Berklee College of Music in Boston. There, he met John Petrucci and John Myung. They formed a band, initially taking the name "Majesty" before changing their name to Dream Theater. They left Berklee soon after.

Avenged Sevenfold, departure from Dream Theater, and future[edit]

In spring 2010, Portnoy filled in for Avenged Sevenfold's former drummer, Jimmy "The Rev" Sullivan, who died during the production of the band's fifth album Nightmare.

On May 5, 2010, Portnoy released a statement on his status with Avenged Sevenfold on their official website: "Although I wish I could stay on board with Avenged in a more permanent capacity, the reality is that I am committed to Dream Theater as my main priority and I will need to resume work with them to start a new album at some point in 2011.....However, I will be able to join my brothers in Avenged Sevenfold for at least the duration of their touring throughout 2010.....You can look at me like the band's 'rebound drummer' to buy them some time until they are comfortable and ready to make a commitment to somebody new for full-time relationship in their future!"[4]

On Wednesday, September 8, 2010, Mike Portnoy announced he would be leaving Dream Theater. In his official statement,[5] he said he had "come to the conclusion that the [Dream Theater] machine was starting to burn me out", and that he had urged the band to take a break from its relentless recording, publishing and touring cycle. When the band decided it would rather continue without him, however, he departed, and Dream Theater later chose Mike Mangini to take his place after auditioning seven "world-class" drummers.[6] When Avenged Sevenfold later decided to also sever ties with Portnoy,[7] he announced that he had asked to return to Dream Theater, but had been turned down by their lawyer[8] since the band (as later revealed) had already brought Mangini on board.

Portnoy later announced that he had started two new musical projects: Adrenaline Mob, with Russell Allen, Mike Orlando, Rich Ward and Paul DiLeo; and Flying Colors, with Neal Morse, Steve Morse, Dave LaRue and Casey McPherson. Adrenaline Mob released its debut EP in August 2011.[9] Both bands released their first full albums in 2012.

On June 10, 2011, Portnoy announced on his website that he would be playing a show in New York City on June 24, 2011 with Adrenaline Mob.[10]

On August 5, 2011, one of Adrenaline Mob's new songs, "Hit the Wall," debuted on the Q104.3 radio station following a live interview with Portnoy about the band, as well as his hopes for the future and his feelings towards Dream Theater.

On September 14, 2011, it was announced that Portnoy would fill in on drums for Stone Sour's show at Rock In Rio for drummer Roy Mayorga, who had been expecting the birth of his first child on the same day as the show.

Portnoy and guitarist John Sykes had begun working on a new band in July 2011, together with bassist Billy Sheehan. In January 2012, however, the project quietly dissolved, and Portnoy announced that he and Sheehan had selected guitarist Richie Kotzen to replace Sykes. The album was recorded throughout August 2012.[11][12] On March 24, 2013, it was announced that the name of the Portnoy/Sheehan/Kotzen band would be called The Winery Dogs. The album was released in July 2013.[13]

Portnoy played drums on Progressive Rock band Bigelf's upcoming 2013 album. He has clarified that he was "just helping Damon [Fox, Bigelf frontman]", however, and is not a member of the band.[14]

On June 4, 2013, Portnoy announced via Adrenaline Mob's Facebook page that he would be playing only 4 more shows with the band before departing. Portnoy cited scheduling conflicts that prevented him from being able "to fully commit to the band's future activities at the moment." [15]


In the April 2001 edition of Modern Drummer & Mike Portnoy's website, he names Ringo Starr, Neil Peart, Buddy Rich, Frank Zappa, Vinnie Paul, Carl Palmer, Bill Bruford, Terry Bozzio, Nicko McBrain, Billy Cobham, Alan White, Nick Mason, Stewart Copeland, Phil Collins, Chester Thompson, Simon Phillips, Nick D'Virgilio, Andy Sturmer, Dave Lombardo, Tommy Ramone, Marky Ramone, Jon Fishman, Vinnie Colaiuta, Peter Criss, John Bonham, Keith Moon and Lars Ulrich as influences.[16]

Awards and recognition[edit]

Modern Drummer

Mike Portnoy won the following Modern Drummer magazine Reader's Poll awards:

  1. Best Up & Coming Talent (1994)
  2. Best Progressive Rock Drummer (1995–2006)
  3. Best Recorded Performance (1995 for Awake, 1996 for A Change of Seasons, 1998 for Falling Into Infinity, 2000 for Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes From a Memory, 2002 for Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence, 2007 for Score) and 2011 for Nightmare (Avenged Sevenfold).[17]
  4. Best Clinician (2000, 2002)
  5. Best Educational Video/DVD (2000, 2002)
  6. Hall of Fame Inductee (2004)

He has co-founded several progressive rock groups and projects, including Transatlantic and Liquid Tension Experiment.

He has released three instructional videos, "Progressive Drum Concepts", "Liquid Drum Theater", which has won awards from Modern Drummer Magazine, and his latest "In Constant Motion". He has released many "Official Bootlegs" on his website, including footage of the studio sessions for the Dream Theater albums Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence, Train of Thought, Octavarium and the Transatlantic release Bridge Across Forever. He has released bootlegs of his tribute bands Hammer of the Gods (a Led Zeppelin tribute), Yellow Matter Custard (The Beatles), Cygnus and the Sea Monsters (Rush), and Amazing Journey (The Who).

On September 18, 2006 within his website's forum Portnoy cagily stated that he had finally met one of his drummer heroes from youth from the band Rush;[18] drummer Neil Peart (one of the few heroes from his youth Portnoy had never met, owing to Peart's legendary privacy), that "Neil and I have finally met and we spent some time together this week and had a great time...",[19] and that a possible collaboration was underway/had been discussed with the teasing statement of "Patience everybody... all will soon be revealed!" It has now been revealed that this meeting was for an interview Portnoy did for his stint as guest editor of Rhythm Magazine.[20] Portnoy had previously written the liner notes for the Japanese pressing of Rush's 2002 release Vapor Trails,[21] but publicly denounced Peart in 2000 after Peart called the people involved in the Rush tribute "bar bands" .[22]

In the October 2009 issue of Rhythm Magazine, Portnoy was listed as #5 in their list of the Top 50 Drummers of All Time.[23]

He was featured on Fuse TV's Talking Metal where he joined with Bobby Ellsworth and the show's hosts in covering Motörhead's "Overkill."

In June 14, 2010, Mike Portnoy won the Metal Hammer Golden God Award for Best Drummer.[24]

As voted on by 6,500 drummers worldwide, Portnoy won the Drummies Award for Best Progressive Rock drummer in 2010, while Joey Jordison of Slipknot/Rob Zombie/Murderdolls won the award for Best Metal drummer.[25]

At the Revolver Golden God Awards in April 20, 2011, he won the "Best Drummer Award" for his work with Avenged Sevenfold.[26]

In June 7, 2011, Portnoy posted on his Facebook that he had won DRUM! Magazine's "Drummer of the Year Award" and the "Metal Drummer Award".[27][28]

Portnoy won the "Virtuoso" award at the 2013 Progressive Music Awards.[29]

Drum kits and percussive equipment[edit]

Several of Portnoy's drum kits make use of Roland electronic drum pads. Portnoy uses these as what he calls the "secret cowbell", to count off the songs in a way that only his fellow band members and the technicians can hear it. An example of this can be seen on the Score DVD, where it can be seen in the background that Portnoy counts off the song "Under A Glass Moon" on the pad. Portnoy explains the use of these pads in the commentary track of the "Drum Cam Only" version of the Live At Budokan DVD, as well as the "Mike's Stage Tour" featurette on the Chaos in Motion 2007–2008 DVD.

Tama has marketed two different sized Mike Portnoy signature snare drums, known as "Melody Masters" (named after Melody, his daughter), since the late 1990s. The smaller of the two has a 12x5" steel shell and the larger has a 14x5.5" maple shell. Both snare models have a unique three way snare strainer mechanism.[31] Portnoy and Tama have custom-made versions in various colors to match the color schemes of the kit he was using at the time (i.e. The "Purple/Red/Green Monsters", "Siamese Monster" "Albino Monster", etc.). For 2006, in recognition of his 'Albino Monster' kit, he released only 250 of these snares worldwide in a white, gloss finish. The older colour (black) is not limited edition.

Sabian has marketed three different sized signature cymbal stacks, known as "Max Stax" (named after his son, Max). They consist of a hand hammered china kang-style cymbal on top of a splash (or crash) cymbal that can be played much more like a drum than a cymbal, used much more in traditional drum fills than most quickly decaying cymbal tones. Their sizes are 8/8", 10/10" and 12/14". Sabian has marketed odd-sized 7, 9, and 11" "Max Splash" cymbals which have a fast decay and can be used in fills and drum patterns that have the same namesake.[32]

Portnoy has endorsed Promark sticks since the early 1990s. His signature stick is the TX420N.[33] It is .531 inches in diameter, 16 1/8 in length, and has a 747 taper and nylon tip. The color of the ink and the design of the logo has changed several times. When Mike was in Dream Theater, it had purple ink and had the Dream Theater logo on it. When he toured with Avenged Sevenfold, the Pro-Mark logo was replaced with the Deathbat and used regular black ink. The "420" in the model number, which is printed on the sticks, is a reference to his birthday (and not a marijuana reference, as has been suggested). He is known for gripping his left stick on the reverse side to attain a different sound on the snare drum - at times he would incorporate the act of tossing his drumstick in the air to change to the other end.

Other instruments played[edit]

Portnoy played John Myung's bass when Dream Theater performed as the fictitious band Nightmare Cinema. Before live performances of "Trial of Tears", he would sometimes switch instruments with John Petrucci and play a fragment of "Eruption" by Van Halen. In Nightmare Cinema he got the "alternate stage name" Max Del Fuvio. He was seen playing Pink Floyd's Sheep, on a sunburst 4-string Music Man Sterling belonging to Myung on The Making of Systematic Chaos. He plays bass guitar during a jam by Liquid Trio Experiment 2. He has also contributed lead and harmony vocals to numerous projects.

Personal life[edit]

Portnoy and his wife Marlene (née Apuzzo) live in Upper Saucon Township in the Lehigh Valley region of Pennsylvania with their children, Melody Ruthandrea and Max John. Marlene used to be a guitarist in the all-female band Meanstreak, and two of the other members, guitarist Rena Sands and bassist Lisa Martens, are married to Dream Theater guitarist John Petrucci and bassist John Myung, respectively.

Max, like his father Mike, is a drummer. His band Next to None opened for Adrenaline Mob in Atlanta on April 6, 2013.[34]

Near the end of every year since 2001, Portnoy shares on his blog a personal choice on the top ten music recordings, films and TV shows released along the year.[35]


1984Rising PowerPower for the Peopleout of print
1986Inner Sanctum12 A.M.out of print
1986S. A. AdamsUnearthed
1989Dream TheaterWhen Dream and Day Unite
1992Images and Words
1995A Change of SeasonsEP
1997Falling into Infinity
1998Liquid Tension ExperimentLiquid Tension Experiment
1999Liquid Tension ExperimentLiquid Tension Experiment 2
1999Dream TheaterMetropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory
2001TransatlanticBridge Across Forever
2001Andy WestRama 1
2002Dream TheaterSix Degrees of Inner Turbulence
2003OSIOffice of Strategic Influence
2003Neal MorseTestimony
2003John ArchA Twist of FateEP
2003Dream TheaterTrain of Thought
2004Neal MorseOne
2005Dream TheaterOctavarium
2005Neal Morse?
2005Yellow Matter CustardOne Night in New York Citytribute to The Beatles (with Paul Gilbert, Neal Morse, and Matt Bissonette)
2006Morse, Portnoy and GeorgeCover to Cover
2006Hammer of the GodsTwo Nights in North Americatribute to Led Zeppelin (with Paul Gilbert, Daniel Gildenlöw, and Dave LaRue)
2006Cygnus and the Sea MonstersOne Night in Chicagotribute to Rush (with Paul Gilbert, Sean Malone, and Jason McMaster)
2007Neal MorseSola Scriptura
2007Dream TheaterSystematic Chaos
2007Liquid Tension ExperimentSpontaneous Combustionas Liquid Trio Experiment
2007Amazing JourneyOne Night in New York Citytribute to The Who (with Paul Gilbert, Billy Sheehan, and Gary Cherone)
2008Neal MorseLifeline
2009TransatlanticThe Whirlwind
2009Dream TheaterBlack Clouds & Silver Linings
2010Avenged SevenfoldNightmare
2010Welcome to the FamilyEP
2011Adrenaline MobAdrenaline MobEP[36]
2011Neal MorseTestimony 2
2011Yellow Matter CustardOne More Night in New York Citytribute to The Beatles (with Paul Gilbert, Neal Morse, and Kasim Sulton)
2012Adrenaline MobOmertà
2012Flying ColorsFlying Colors
2012Morse, Portnoy and GeorgeCover2Cover
2012Neal MorseMomentum
2012The Prog World OrchestraA Proggy Christmas
2013Adrenaline MobCovertàCover EP that covers Badlands, Dio,

The Doors, Van Halen, Heart, Rainbow, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath

2013The Winery DogsThe Winery Dogs
2013Portnoy, Sheehan, MacAlpine and SherinianLive In TokyoMaterial from their individual and collaborative careers.
2013Flying ColorsLive in Europe
2014BigelfInto the Maelstrom
2014Paul GilbertStone Pushing Uphill Man2 tracks
2014Flying ColorsSecond Nature

Instructional DVD releases[edit]

Portnoy has released several instructional drumming videos/DVDs. These include:

Portnoy's self filmed performances[edit]

Portnoy has self-released "drum-cam" DVDs of the last several Dream Theater and side project recording sessions through his own "MP4" production company. These are "in-studio" recordings typically consisting of Full Band, Isolated Drums tracks, and an Audio Commentary.


  1. ^ "Mike Portnoy.com The Official Website". Mikeportnoy.com. Retrieved 2014-07-16. 
  3. ^ Portnoy, Mike (2009). "The Mike Portnoy Official Website/biography". Portnoy Official Website. Retrieved 2009-10-13. 
  4. ^ "MIKE PORTNOY WILL BE DRUMMING WITH A7X". Avenged Sevenfold. 2010-07-31. Retrieved 2011-10-24. 
  5. ^ "Mike Portnoy Quits Dream Theater (September 8, 2010)". Metal Insider. 2010-09-08. Retrieved 2011-10-24. 
  6. ^ "It's Official: MIKE MANGINI Is New DREAM THEATER Drummer". BlabberMouth. 
  7. ^ Mike Portnoy. "Mike Portnoy Confirms, "My Time With Avenged Sevenfold Has Come To An End."". Deathbat News. 
  8. ^ "Mike Portnoy Told He Can’t Come Back To Dream Theater". anthonybest.com. 2010-12-20. Retrieved 2014-10-03. 
  9. ^ "The official site of Century Media recording artists". Adrenaline Mob. Retrieved 2014-07-16. 
  10. ^ Portnoy, Mike. "COMING TO NYC ON FRI JUNE 24TH". Retrieved 12 June 2011. 
  11. ^ Portnoy, Mike. "MP Studio Diary for Portnoy/Sheehan/Kotzen sessions - Day 1". Retrieved 11 April 2013. 
  12. ^ Portnoy, Mike. "MP Studio Diary for Portnoy/Sheehan/Koten sessions - Day 14". Retrieved 11 April 2013. 
  13. ^ "THE WINERY DOGS: Official Logo, Band Photo Unveiled". BLABBERMOUTH.NET. Retrieved 11 April 2013. 
  14. ^ Whitman, Howard. "EntertainmentTell Interviews Mike Portnoy of The Winery Dogs". EntertainmentTell. TechnologyTell. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  15. ^ "Adrenaline Mob Facebook Post: Portnoy Departs Adrenaline Mob". Facebook.com. Retrieved 2014-07-16. 
  16. ^ "Mike Portnoy.com The Official Website". Mikeportnoy.com. Retrieved 2011-10-24. 
  17. ^ "Modern Drummer 2011 Readers Poll". Tama.com. Retrieved 2011-10-24. 
  18. ^ "Neil Peart's New Book "Roadshow: Landscape With Drums: A Concert Tour by Motorcycle "". Mikeportnoy.com. Retrieved 2011-10-24. 
  19. ^ "Neil Peart's New Book "Roadshow: Landscape With Drums: A Concert Tour by Motorcycle "". Mikeportnoy.com. Retrieved 2011-10-24. 
  20. ^ "DREAM THEATER Begins Recording New Album, Seeks New Label Home". BlabberMouth. 
  21. ^ "DREAM THEATER Drummer To Pen Liner Notes For New RUSH CD - Apr. 11, 2002". blabbermouth.net. Retrieved 11 May 2012. 
  22. ^ "Metal Sludge - 20 Questions With Mike Portnoy, 6/20/00 - The Power & Glory since 1998". Metalsludge.tv. 2000-06-20. Retrieved 2011-10-24. 
  23. ^ [1][dead link]
  24. ^ [2][dead link]
  25. ^ "MIKE PORTNOY, JOEY JORDISON WIN 2010 DRUMMIES AWARDS". Roadrunner Records. 2010-07-22. Retrieved 2010-08-04. 
  26. ^ Josh Hart (2011-04-21). "Revolver Golden Gods – Winners Announced! - Revolver Magazine". Revolvermag.com. Retrieved 2011-10-24. 
  27. ^ "Mike Portnoy wins several great awards from DRUM! Magazine!!". Facebook.com. Retrieved 2011-10-24. 
  28. ^ "Drummies 2011: Results Announced!". DRUM! Magazine. Retrieved 2011-10-24. 
  29. ^ "Prog Awards 2013 - The Winners!". Prog Rock Magazine. 3 September 2013. Retrieved 4 September 2013. 
  30. ^ "Mike Portnoy and the Creation of Another Monster". Tama.com. Retrieved 2011-10-24. 
  31. ^ [3][dead link]
  32. ^ [4][dead link]
  33. ^ "TX420N | Pro-Mark Drumsticks, The World's Finest Sticks™". Promark.com. Retrieved 2011-10-24. 
  34. ^ "MIKE PORTNOY's Son's Band NEXT TO NONE Supports ADRENALINE MOB In Atlanta; Video Available". Bravewords.com. Retrieved 2014-07-16. 
  35. ^ "MP's Best Of 2011 Year End Wrap-Up". Mikeportnoy.com. Retrieved 2014-07-16. 
  36. ^ "About". Adrenaline Mob. Retrieved 2014-07-16. 

External links[edit]